ELIOT, Maine — Did you know chickens have 24 distinct vocalizations and the same number of vertebrae as a giraffe?
These are just two of many peculiar facts about the domesticated birds Rebecca Emerson-Brown has to share with customers at the Eliot Agway, which has just received its baby chicks for the spring season.
Emerson-Brown is self-proclaimed “off the deep-end chicken crazy,” and wants to let people in on the joys of chicken keeping. A former state representative for Portsmouth, she quite literally jumped the river to Kittery a few years ago to get more land for her chickens. Now, she spreads her obsession to customers at the agriculture supply store.
The Agway on Route 236 currently has Speckled Sussex, Buff Orpington, Cuckoo Maran and California White breeds for sale. The Orpingtons are the classic “Easter chickens,” warm yellow, soft and cuddly, as babies, at least. They’ll eventually grow to weigh around eight pounds.
The store received 500 chicks the first week in April and will get another batch shortly. When they arrive, they’re around two days old.
“Backyard chickens are a big thing,” Emerson-Brown said, while wearing a “Mother of Chickens” T-shirt, a play off “Game of Thrones.” “It’s really a huge growing business, and growing more and more every year.”
The Eliot Agway has an entire aisle dedicated to chicken health, feed options and even probiotic supplements. Emerson-Brown encouraged people to buy local and support local knowledge, of which the folks at the Agway surely have plenty.
“I just love them, they’re fantastic,” she said of the chicks. “They all have different personalities. For example, I have one girl who just wants to live with you.”
Emerson-Brown said different breeds are more friendly than others. The Buff Orpingtons “will snuggle,” and are gentle, sweet and good with kids.
“It’s a hobby,” she said. “They can be great pets.”
At her home, Emerson-Brown has upwards of 40 chickens and even two turkeys. Pulling out her phone, she showed a photo of one chicken spending time with her on her living room couch.
They can “prep your veggie garden, get rid of kitchen scraps, lay fresh, local eggs and entertain you,” she said, noting they’re great agents for tick prevention. Raising chickens can also be a great way to teach children about agriculture and caring for animals.